How it Started

Lyric analysis and song discussion applications are some of my favorite interventions to facilitate in music therapy sessions as they can target so many potential areas of growth. From an outside, observational standpoint, it may seem very simple: there are lyric sheets with numbered lines, the song plays, and it’s followed by discussion. Of course, those are the very bare bones of these applications and we know there is so much more that goes into this process. For many people, listening to and reflecting on the lyrics comes naturally. In some settings, clients may need little to no support in processing metaphors, understanding themes, and connecting the message to their own circumstances. For other folks, this reflective way of thinking might be a bit too abstract without some additional modes of support. Aside from the lyrics on their own, we also have to consider all of the layers and elements of music contributing to the auditory stimuli for the listener. As a personal example, when I am listening to a song (particularly one that is new to me) I process the music first: rhythm, tempo, instrumentation, style, etc. When my best friend listens to a song, her mind begins to process the lyrics first. Everyone engages with music differently, and that goes for our clients as well. This thought process led me to look for different ways to approach lyric analysis and song discussion to make it more accessible and concrete for my clients.

How it’s Going

There are SO many helpful and informative articles on lyric analysis (some of my favorites are from Abbey Dvorak, PhD, MT-BC) but I still couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for in terms of hands-on resources…so I created one myself. My priority when designing this guide was to make lyric analysis and song discussion applications feel more approachable for all clients, even outside of mental health-focused settings. Having the opportunity and capability to dig deeper into the music (even if the theme isn’t directly related to oneself) can be extremely rewarding and support self-determination and efficacy for our clients. I wanted the prompts and choices on the worksheet to be simple and thoughtful while still targeting main focus points for analyzing. This has been really fun and easy to use in 1:1 settings with my clients past and present, and it helps provide some additional structure for the activity if it’s needed.

I Want it!

Awesome, here you go!

Music Therapy Song Discussion Guide

Great! How Do I Use It?

  • Print it out: keep a few copies on hand in a binder or in your office space. I like to use dry erase covers.
  • Screen share the PDF on telehealth and fill it out together over zoom.
  • Use it for both familiar and unfamiliar music. It can be really fun for a client to work through this guide with their favorite song and can provide them with more context if that is something they’re interested in.
  • Using it with unfamiliar music can be a great way to measure receptive comprehension/communication skills, which can generalize to reading and other receptive skills.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find this useful when supporting your clients, and that it can lead to some great discussions! 

Our music therapist, Abby, is shown smiling, standing in front of greenery outside. Abby has long, wavy blonde-red hair and is wearing a blue groovy garfoose t-shirt.

This blog was written and shared by Abby Petrey, MT-BC. Abby provides 1:1 and group music therapy support services in people’s homes, the community, Cleveland schools, and via telehealth. Abby is also our social media coordinator. Abby’s passions outside of music include reading, cuddling her cat, and spending time with friends. All images in this post are original and created by Abby.